Reader @yegyegjoe asks on Twitter, “Why do we fluoridate the water when fluoride shown to calcify cholesterol in the arteries?” Globe Health has explored the contested issue of fluoridated water, from both the anti-fluoride cause as well as the case for it. Having examined all of the evidence, our Public Health reporter André Picard has debunked the myths, and has your answer:
Fluoridation – the addition of fluoride to municipal water supplies to prevent dental caries – is one of great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Fluoridation is also the inspiration for all manner of conspiracy theories, such as it being a mind control drug developed by the Nazis, and a scheme by aluminum companies to dispose of excess fluoride by dumping it into municipal water supplies. Many proponents of so-called ‘natural health’ believe, among other things, that fluoride causes children to have lower IQs and causes bone cancer – but those claims are tenuous to say the least.
The overwhelming evidence is that fluoride is safe and beneficial, particularly in the low-doses in which it is added to water.
Your specific question, about fluoride ‘calcifying cholesterol in the arteries’ is a perfect example of how science is perverted to serve the anti-fluoridation cause.
In 2012, scientists published a research paper entitled ‘Association of vascular fluoride uptake with vascular calcification and coronary artery disease.’ It was a study of patients who were injected with whole-body 18F sodium fluoride, a radioactive substance used to help detect bone cancer with PET and CT scans. The study showed that the substance caused some calcification to their arteries.
This was interpreted – sophomorically at best – by some (read: Natural Health News) as proof of a “hitherto largely unknown connection between fluoride exposure, coronary artery disease and cardiovascular events.”
It was nothing of the sort. The research had nothing to do with the safety of low dose sodium fluoride added to drinking water.
The fluoride-causes-calcification theory has been raised again, mostly by “alternative health” bloggers, thanks to the publication of a study entitled ‘Effect of water fluoridation on the development of medial vascular calcification in uremic rats’ in the journal Toxicology.
What that research shows is that, if rats who are bred to have severe kidney disease are fed fluoride, they will suffer build-up of calcium in their arteries. This is not really surprising given that, when kidneys fail, the body has trouble voiding all sorts of things, including excess fluoride and calcium. To suggest this this study demonstrates that fluoride causes heart disease is a preposterous leap of logic. (Another common belief among Natural Health News readers is that calcium is the root of all heart disease but that’s a topic for another day.)
For the record, even The National Kidney Foundation says there is no reason for people with chronic kidney disease to avoid fluoridated water, or toothpaste for that matter.
More than 400 million people worldwide benefit from fluoridated water. It’s unfortunate that it’s not more because dental cavities are the single more common chronic health problem on Earth.